Brown to rule out early UK vote as polls dip

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LONDON, Oct 6 (Reuters) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to rule out an early election this year after polls showed his lead over his Conservative rivals had dwindled, the BBC reported today.

Brown, who took over from Tony Blair earlier this year, had in recent weeks toyed with the idea of holding an early election when polls showed him far ahead of the Conservatives after his ruling Labour Party held a conference.

The Conservatives then held their own party conference last week, and polls in the past few days showed Brown's lead had suddenly dwindled or even evaporated altogether.

The BBC, which gave no source, said it had learned that the latest opinion polls had persuaded Brown not to call an early vote, and he would issue a statement soon saying there would be no ballot this year and implying one would be held in 2009.

Brown's Downing Street office declined to comment on the broadcaster's report.

The decision to back down, if confirmed, will be viewed as a victory for Conservative leader David Cameron who had challenged Brown to call the vote even when the Conservatives were trailing far behind.

Under British parliamentary rules, Brown must call an election by 2010, but he can hold it earlier to seek a fresh five-year mandate if he chooses.

That had seemed to be the likely outcome when Labour was far ahead, and Brown added to election fever with a flying visit to Iraq last week and by moving his government's pre-budget report forward.

REUTERS PY VC2130

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